Political Philosophy in the Twentieth Century began as a special issue of The Review of Politics intended to illustrate the variety and depth of philosophical analyses of politics in the face of the purported demise of political philosophy. With the addition of ten new essays this book expands the range of positions and arguments represented.
We thought it desirable to demonstrate the richness and vitality of philosophical reflection on political issues in the twentieth century in response to the many observations of its weakness, if not death. As Dana Villa observes as the beginning of his chapter on Arendt, “in the 1970s and 1980s, students of political theory invariably encountered the cliché that political theory and philosophy died sometime in the 1950s, only to be revived in 1971 by the publication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice.” Much as he admires Rawls's work, Villa is nevertheless “taken somewhat aback by the radical foreshortening of the history of political thought implied by this cliché. After all, the 1950s and early 1960s saw the publication of some of the most interesting – and enduring – works of political theory of the past sixty years or so.” A few “landmarks” of “what was, in retrospect, a remarkably fertile period for political thought” include Leo Strauss's Natural Right and History (1953), Eric Voegelin's Order and History (1956–7), Isaiah Berlin's Four Essays on Liberty (1969), Jürgen Habermas's Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1963), Michael Oakeshott's Rationalism and Politics (1962), and Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), and On Revolution (1963).
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